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Reversal: Carpenter elected vice-chair of District 55 board

Anthony Carpenter

Upon further review, Anthony Carpenter is the new vice-chair of the Laurens County School District Board of Trustees.

Carpenter was nominated to fill the vacant vice-chair office at the board’s May 22 meeting. With only four members remaining on the seven-member board, Carpenter received two “yea” votes – his own and that of board member Peggy Nance – while Chair Cathy Little abstained and board member Mike Hughes did not cast a vote. Little said the motion to elect Carpenter as chair failed.

After no nominations were made for a new board secretary, Little declared that the board would wait until after an August special election for the newly comprised board to choose new officers.

A few days later, District 55 released a statement that announced Carpenter as the new vice-chair, saying staff had researched Robert’s Rules of Order and determined the motion to elect Carpenter had passed.

“(Carpenter) has been officially confirmed as the new vice-chair of the LCSD 55 School Board following additional verification and discovery, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, America’s leading guide to parliamentary procedure.”

The release went on to say that after “conducting a thorough review of the meeting minutes and procedures, it has been determined that Mr. Carpenter did, in fact, receive the necessary votes to be appointed as vice-chair.”

Also, the release went on to say there was some “confusion and oversight regarding the vote.”

After reviewing the language in Robert’s Rules of Order, the district interpretation was that the two votes in favor of Carpenter carried the vote, despite having only half of the four-member quorum, not a clear majority. The abstention by Little and Hughes’ choice to not vote, termed a “passive abstention” in Robert’s Rules, did not count for or against Carpenter.

The interpretation as supplied by the district read as follows:

“In this case, it is not a matter of counting the number of yea votes versus the quorum (two yea out of four members), but it is a majority vote of having more yea than nay (in this case all yea and no nay, which is 2-0.)”

Carpenter was first elected to the District 55 Board of Trustees in 1999 and has served ever since. Of late, he has been a vocal critic of Little and a move to oust District 55 Superintendent Ameca Thomas.

“I am honored to serve as vice-chair of the Laurens County School District 55 Board,” Carpenter said in a statement. “I am committed to working with my fellow board members, our staff and our community partners to ensure that every student in our district has access to the resources and support they need.”

Since reports that Thomas’ job was in jeopardy surfaced prior to a board meeting in March, the board has been fractured as community members rallied around Thomas.

The board’s ability to function properly has been compounded by the resignations of three former trustees, including former Vice-Chair Neal Patterson, James “Bubba” Rawl and Todd Varner.

Rawl accepted a job with the S.C. Department of Education, Patterson moved from the district he represented and Varner cited the board’s inability to function properly as the reason behind his resignation.

Special elections to fill all three slots on the board are scheduled for Aug. 1.

The board’s next scheduled meeting is a public budget hearing for the upcoming fiscal year at 4 p.m. on June 26 at the district offices.

The hearing will concern the district’s projected $56.625 million budget, an increase of 7.1% of the current budget, which was $52.849 million.

Millage for the upcoming year is expected to remain the same at 167.5 mils. Property taxes are expected to generate $12.4 million.

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